The context: women micro-entrepreneurs recycling charcoal in rural India
Thanks to the support of local NGOs and the International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR), rural women in Rajasthan, India, have created micro-enterprises to collect used charcoal produced as a waste by-product during the daily cooking with firewood/bamboo. Each household collects the charcoal over a week and this is sold by households from nearby villages to a collection centre which then processes it into briquettes as cooking fuel.
This new activity has raised a huge interest in the community, and the number of households coming to the collection centers to sell their used charcoal keeps growing. Currently there are already 12 charcoal collection centers with about 800 women registered in each, so 9600 women already impacted so far.
The problem: poverty and low literacy level make it hard to manage efficiently a micro-business
This success is of course a great reward and motivation for the women micro-entrepreneurs, who all come from very poor families and have a low education level. On the other hand, they now face growing difficulties to manage their micro-businesses efficiently and lack a simple solution to register their users, keep track of their deposits, manage their bookkeeping, etc.
The solution: a customized Android app on a solar-powered tablet
This project will provide Indian women micro-entrepreneurs a solar-powered Android tablet with a simple application called KOYALA (charcoal in Hindi), specially designed to help them manage their charcoal activities. As a volunteer Android developer (with extensive experience in developing countries, including in India), I will spend one week with them in the field in order to customize the application according to their needs, and to give them a training so they can learn how to use their new equipment. The tablets will be equiped with solar chargers since electricity is hardly available in the target rural area.
Besides its offline enterprise management functionalities, KOYALA will also allow the women to use occasional internet access to easily send updates to an online web platform where the public and funders from all over the world will be able to follow the progress in the field.
Scope of the pilot project
This initial pilot will focus on one collection area with 3 collection points covering 800 households in Sirohi district, Rajasthan. Each woman managing a collection point will be given a tablet with its solar battery, and the needed training. Another tablet will be lent temporarily to volunteer households in order to geolocate their villages and houses, take pictures or videos of their families and bamboo plantations, and thus improve the project mapping and online reporting. A fifth tablet will be used for development and testing purposes.